12th December 2019 : The Hindu Editorial Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Question – In the wake of pendency of cases leading to an erosion of faith of the people from the judicial system, what is the way ahead?(250 words)
Note – To better understand RCT (Randomised Controlled Trials) refer to the article of 30th October.
Note – About the importance of judiciary and the independence of Judiciary please refer to article of 12th September.
The present scenario:
- As on June 1, 2019, more than 43 lakh cases are pending in the 25 high courts in the country and over 8 lakh of these are over a decade old.
- To add to this. According to the Ministry of Law and Justice, there is a shortage of judges with only 20 judges per 10 lakh people in the country as compared to 17 in 2014.
- It was to get rid of this kind of a situation that the fast-track courts were established and they have been functional since the year 2000.
- To quote the Ministry of Law and Justice, at the end of March, there were 581 FTCs operational in the country. Of these U.P. has the highest number of cases pending, followed my Maharashtra. While 56% of the States and Union Territories, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, had no FTCs.
- The long-term consequence of such high pendency is an erosion of faith in the institution of the judiciary.
- Justice delivery is the monopoly of the state but delays and the cost of litigation have led to people approaching non-judicial bodies outside the formal court system such as khap panchayats, religious leaders and politicians for dispute resolution.
- But the problem is yet to be resolved and the situation is getting worse day by day.
Are Fast Track Courts (FTCs) the solution?
- Refer to the article of 7th August. It has been written in details.
Where do we lack?
- We lack in experimental research. Experimental research in the judiciary is the need of the hour.
- As discussed in the article of 7th August, just increasing the number of judges or FTCs are not the solution. We need an alternate approach.
- This year the Nobel Prize in Economics went to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer. Their work centers around experimental research.
- For example, if they have to see the effect of a particular idea, say the relation between increasing the number of judges and the pendency of cases, they will choose two courts. In one courts they will increase the number of judges and in the other they will let it be as it is. Then after a fixed period of time they will compare both the outcomes and reach a conclusion according, like whether increasing the number of judges leads to reduction in pendency of cases.
- But the problem in the judicial system in India is that such type of experimental research is missing.
- Given the importance of judicial independence, members of the judiciary are resistant to outsiders doing experimental work on their functioning. Though there is widespread acknowledgement of the problem of judicial delay, there is only limited effort within the judiciary to understand through research the nuances of the problems and motivations of the various stakeholders.
- There is a conspicuous lack of experimental work in the field of legal research in India.
- Rigorous RCTs are indeed difficult to carry out in legal settings, given the complexity of the legal system and the need to ensure that any such studies do not hinder people’s access to justice. But there is a great opportunity to incorporate some of these methods from RCTs into legal policymaking.
- If more of these researches are conducted, the policy makers can make better policies. They will be certain that their policies have shown better results on a smaller scale (i.e. when the experiment was carried out in a small group, may be comparing the data of one or two courts) and will show positive outcomes on a larger scale as well. But what is required is proper well funded research and will.
- The most common solution proposed using a simplistic input-output model is to increase the number of judges. This suggestion conveniently masks the deeper systemic flaws in the judicial system that cause such high pendency.
- Using the experimental method will allow researchers to test a causal relationship between an independent variable (say increasing judge strength) and possibly dependent variables (say judicial pendency). Experiments such as these will give policymakers insights into how certain interventions work at a smaller scale before deciding on large-scale implementation.
- For example, The ‘Zero Pendency Courts’ project in Delhi – The Delhi High Court carried out a pilot project between 2017 and 2018 with the assistance of DAKSH to assess the impact of ‘no backlog’ on judicial pendency and to devise ideal timelines for different types of cases. Eleven judges with no backlog were compared with 11 judges with the regular backlog. The study found that since pilot courts had fewer cases listed per day, they could spend more time per hearing. On an average, pilot sessions judges dealing with murder cases took approximately 16 hours to dispose sessions cases over 6.5 months, while pilot fast-track judges (dealing with rape cases) took 4.4 hours over three months.
- Studies such as these provide policymakers with evidence to implement targeted and effective solutions.
Conclusion/ way forward:
- So on the whole experimental research in the Indian legal system is an idea whose time has come. Judicial reforms are far too important to be implemented without the rigorous backing of such research.
Note – there is an article titled ‘The not-so bright idea of selling family silver’. The article is on BPCL. It deals with PSUs (Public Sector Units) and the consequences of too much disinvestment by the government and the issues of national security that it raises. The article focuses completely on BPCL, the following are the major highlights.
- The ideological issue of Government versus private ownership is related to the strategic issue about national security. Natural resources, especially oil, are a strategic national resource.
- The United States maintains such an underground crude oil reserve to mitigate any supply disruptions. Some comparative figures for such reserves are: the U.S. over 600 billion barrels, China 400, South Korea 146, Spain 120 and India 39.1. India does have a target to substantially increase its reserves.
- At today’s prices to reach Chinese levels of reserves we will need nearly ₹2 lakh crore, which is 10% of the Central Budget. Even if we spread this out over several years, it is still a lot of money. There are two (state-owned) Chinese companies in the top five oil companies; in fact Sinopec is the world’s second largest, just behind Aramco.
- While China sticks to state-owned national resources, we are moving in the opposite direction. National security also depends on the economic power that a Government has. We do have plans to build perhaps the world’s largest refinery in India, with the help of Saudi Arabia, but ownership and control will be in foreign hands.
- Meanwhile with the strategic disinvestments, we will lose Government control over both crude and refining.
- In such a scenario nothing prevents China or any other country for that matter from buying up refining capacity in India.
- What this implies is that we are letting the foreign powers like China have a major control over our strategic natural resources like oil. If that happens, the national security of our country will be in danger.
- So the government must be mindful of any disinvestment in crucial sectors. The lure of financial gain should not overpower the strategic necessities.
Note – There is another article on vaccination 6th, 15th and 18th September.